Y’all. Are you tired? I am tired! I am really feeling the bone-deep heaviness of the human experience right now. My soul is weary, my movements feel sluggish, and my mind is in overdrive. I feel stuck in the maddening vortex of doing too much and not enough simultaneously. Many of my friends and clients seem to be in a similar headspace right now. We’re feeling overwhelmed and underprepared in so many facets of our lives, and the motivation just isn’t there. On top of all of that (or, more accurately, in relation to it), we are not taking good care of ourselves. Well, I’ll speak for myself. I am not taking good care of myself. 

Even though I carry around a giant water bottle every day, I’ve been severely dehydrated for about two weeks. My eyeballs feel fuzzy from scrolling through TikTok videos for an undisclosed amount of time. My muscles are tight and my body is often curled over itself like a shrimp because I haven’t been stretching. I’ve been ditching many of my daily rituals and pleasure practices because I’ve convinced myself I don’t have enough time or energy for them. My communication with others is inconsistent and distracted. Although I am in the thick of training for an ultra right now, I haven’t been prioritizing my runs like I usually do. 

I think it’s incredibly important to have grace for ourselves when we’re having a rough go of things, and I work hard to not beat myself up when my rhythm gets thrown off a bit. One of my life tenets is “don’t be too rigid.” It’s okay to miss a run or not respond to a text right away. I also recognize that self-care, at least in my case, is usually the first thing that gets thrown out the window when life gets stressful, and that’s not cool. We deserve better!

Self-care has become a buzzword, and it has been watered down by marketing and misinformation. When I ask people about their understanding of self-care practices, I usually get a polarized response. Some people roll their eyes and talk about how self-care is dumb, frivolous, or selfish. They often spend time talking about how it isn’t applicable to them. Others really lean into the “treat yourself” mentality and use the concept of self-care to justify certain actions or purchases that aren’t always focused on their well-being. Despite the overuse and misuse of the word, self-care is a necessary and integral part of everyone’s mental health. 

In reality, self-care is an intentional practice of tending to our needs and desires in order to enhance or maintain our well-being. The act of caring for ourselves is a reminder that we are deserving of love, attention, and safe-keeping. It encourages us to show up for ourselves, which allows us to show up for others. I am a better friend, partner, and therapist when I pay attention to my needs and take care of myself. And while self-care can include things like bubble baths and face masks (I am not here to gatekeep, and I love a good bath), it is a multidimensional practice that involves lots of other things too, including some unexciting stuff. I lovingly suggest that we broaden our understanding of self-care to include both the mundane and creative in order to care for our whole selves.

Sometimes self-care is boring. It looks like drinking water to protect our organs and stave off that afternoon headache. It looks like using the restroom when we need to instead of holding it for two hours. It looks like washing the dishes after dinner to help keep our environment decluttered and our anxiety at bay. You get the idea. Self-care also includes more exciting things. My partner has spent his days off exploring the nearby trails on a mountain bike in the sunshine. My friend is making a point to take herself on afternoon roller-skating dates. I am participating in a long-distance book club with one of my best friends. There are a million different ways to love ourselves well. And when we take time to do them, life becomes a bit more manageable and enjoyable. Self-care won’t magically fix our anxiety or depression, but we won’t get very far without it. 

I encourage you to take some time to assess what your self-care looks like right now. What areas of life (physical, emotional, relational, psychological, sexual, intellectual, and financial) could use some attention? What are some mundane ways you can care for yourself? Is there a way to make those tasks more pleasurable (e.g., listening to your favorite song while brushing teeth or picking out an enjoyable dishsoap scent)? What are some creative ways to tend to your desires? 

For me, I think self-care right now looks like prioritizing my runs, rewatching a tv series and laughing my butt off with my partner, drinking water, and reaching out to my friends. When my anxiety starts getting really intense and I remember to check-in with myself, the answer to the question of “what do I need right now?” is usually “to drink some water and call my besties.” Those are usually my first steps to finding some semblance of solid ground and returning to myself. So, figure out your version of that and take a small step forward. You deserve care and pleasure, even when life is stressful and overwhelming. And if you act like you matter, you just might start believing it.